The 'Bergoglio style' that has revolutionised the Curia
Pope Francis has overturned age-old customs and is adored07 March, 13:11
But the 'Bergoglio style' could already be seen in the first few moments following his election, when he appeared on the central balcony of St Peter's basilica.
"Brothers and sisters, good evening" began the man dressed in simple white vestments, a silver rather than gold crucifix hanging around his neck, and without the mozzetta trimmed with ermine or red stole that he wore only for the blessing. The crowd gave a roar and the pope, preannounced by such an unusual and loaded name as Francis, continued with a series of gestures that left the millions of faithful awaiting Benedict XVI's successor dumbstruck. Bergoglio presented himself as the bishop of Rome and asked the people to pray for their bishop. Then he bowed his head and recited the Lord's Prayer together with the crowd.
It was around 8 pm on March 13, 2013, and, in style at least, the beginning of a new era. The novelties began to unfold over the next few days as Bergoglio returned to his guesthouse in via della Scrofa to pay the bill, travelled around the Vatican in a minibus with the cardinals, continued to wear the black shoes and plastic wristwatch that he had been wearing when he left Argentina, and called his newsagent in Buenos Aires to tell him not to deliver the papers any more. These were no extravagant gestures of the early days. On the contrary, they encapsulated the line of sobriety that the new Pope intended to pursue with his manifesto of "a poor Church for the poor".
So Bergoglio rejected the apartment in the Apostolic Palace (of which he said: "It's big, not luxurious, but it is like a funnel turned upside down") in favour of a life of community free from courtly trappings at the St Marta guesthouse in the Vatican, where his day begins at 4.45 am and he celebrates Mass every morning, preaching unprecedented daily homilies.
He shunned the official saloon cars in favour of an ordinary unarmoured Ford Focus, which he uses to move around inside and outside the Vatican, often with the window wound down, greeting the faithful and stopping at red traffic lights.
This was the car he used to visit President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano at the Quirinale palace on November 15, a decision frowned upon by those at the Vatican who believe ceremonial observance is a form of respect for the institutions.
But Pope Francis continued on his path, dismantling pomp and protocols befitting of a royal court. On July 7 he flew to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa to speak out against "the globalisation of indifference" that leads to the tragic fate of many migrants as they seek a better life.
He did this from an altar made from a small fishing boat, arriving on board a cross-country vehicle provided by the parish priest. On July 22, he was immortalised carrying his hand luggage onto the plane that would take him to World Youth Day 2013 in Brazil. On his return, he did not take the traditional summer vacation at the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo outside Rome, but remained in the Vatican to work. He is tireless during papal audiences, trying to convey his warmth to children in partucular and also to the sick, for whom he has a special concern. Thus Wednesdays in St Peter's square have become something of a happening, with outings lasting over four hours and Bergoglio earning himself the title "The people's Pope". The "surprise" telephone calls to Catholics who write to him quickly became a distinctive characteristic of Francis, who even wrote to the interior ministry in Argentina to ask for his documents and passport to be renewed: he wanted to travel as an Argentinian citizen. And he sent a firm letter to the cardinals he created in his first concistory on February 22, reminding them how they had been called to service and not to a prize and inviting them to celebrate soberly, without ostentation. "I wouldn't say that Pope Francis' gestures are a break with the past, but rather choices that correspond to the person he effectively is," explained the Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. Authenticity is, in fact, the key to understanding the Jesuit Bergoglio. On the one hand, he is coherent with the man who as a cardinal and bishop of Buenos Aires lived in a small two-room apartment and preferred taking the bus or metro to riding in a chauffeured vehicle; on the other, he is interested in "converting hearts" by example in particular; without imposition or the pursuit of popularity-seeking attitudes or superficial shows of solidarity with the poor, but by making his message credible starting from the way he himself behaves.